10 Minutes to Move and Relax
The purpose of this short, approximately 10 minute, routine is to gently move and mobilise the body in a gentle and sympathetic way, before taking a moment of stillness to concentrate on the breath.
In many ways this routine mimics traditional purpose of yoga, where the physical activities were primarily designed to prepare the body for sitting meditation.
This routine however can be done by practically everybody who can move their body at all, as the two physical exercises are very gentle on the body; but no less powerful because of that. There’s a little further information on the benefits of the exercises below as well.
Note: Although I’m going to demonstrate this in the video below standing, and then sitting on the floor, there is no reason at all that this routine could not be followed by somebody of limited mobility sitting in a chair.
Exercise 1: Midline Crossing and Tension Release
- Raise your knees one at the time and touch the knee with your opposite hand.
- Repeat this movement 30 times on each side (alternating back and forth).
Exercise 2: Relaxing the Upper Body and Stimulating the Parasympatic Nervous System
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Keeping the upperbody straight imagine an axis right through your midline from your top to your bottom.
- Turn from left to right letting your shoulders relax and arms swing naturally around you.
- Let your breath slow down and center in the belly area.
- Count slowly to 30.
Exercise 3: Breath Awareness
- Bring awareness to your breathe by slowly counting your inhales and exhales.
- Start by counting ¨one¨ when you breathe in and ¨one¨ when you breath out.
- Continue by counting ¨two¨ when breath in in and ¨two¨ when breath in out.
- Let the exhale become a little longer than the inhale.
- Count to 10 and then start again at 1.
- Repeat 3 times, making for a total of 30 breaths.
Benefits and References
Midline Crossing and Tension Release
Not only does this gentle movement release tension in the body it also “crosses the midline” as we would say in “wellness parlance”.
Exercises that cross the midline really good at stimulating the connection between the body and the brain, benefiting our proprioception and mental acuity.
Much of the research on this is focused on children, and this is a great exercise for children. (This book has some great research on the subject.)
But you will also see footballers, and other sports people that need to twist and turn and change direction rapidly while keeping the balance using this exercise,
Relaxing the Upper Body and Stimulating the Parasympatic Nervous System
This exercise is used a lot in traditional Asian exercise system such as Qi Gong. It is been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is one of the three divisions of our autonomic nervous system, and it sometimes referred to as the “rest and digest” system.
By stimulating it we are helping the body and the mind to relax, the body will release hormones that promote this feeling in ourselves.
This exercise asks us to bring attention to our breath. In doing so we enter a mindful, meditative, state. By counting breaths we give our “monkey-brain” an activity to occupy itself so we can stay still and present.
Huge amounts of scientific research has been done on the benefits of meditation type activities, a couple of interesting examples are highlighted below: